PARIS (Reuters) -The French government plans to file a criminal complaint against home care group Orpea over allegations of mistreatment of elderly patients, government minister Brigitte Bourguignon said in a statement Saturday.
Following a month and a half-long investigation into the group’s management and financial practices, the government found “significant dysfunctioning in the group’s management, to the detriment of the care of its residents,” according to the health ministry.
The government said it would send its conclusions to state prosecutors and seek to recover public funds provided to the company after uncovering possible irregularities in how they were used.
The government is seeking to recover as much as several tens of millions of euros, corresponding to the period 2017 to 2020, Bourguignon said in an interview published in the French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche early Sunday.
Orpea responded later on Saturday that while the government report “does shed light on certain dysfunctions,” it also “allows us to conclude that there is no organised ‘system’ that would lead to widespread abuse.”
“We have taken the full measure of the legitimate emotion aroused by these dysfunctions, many of which stem from the shortage of care and support professionals that affects us as it does the entire nursing home sector,” said Philippe Charrier, Orpea chairman and chief executive officer.
A book by independent journalist Victor Castanet in January made public claims of severe failings in hygiene care in an Orpea home for elderly people in a wealthy Paris suburb. The French group has repeatedly denied systemic shortcomings and said in its statement on Saturday that it denies “several particularly serious allegations” in the book.
The government is inspecting the country’s 7,500 elderly care homes over the next two years and plans to reinforce legal and accounting rules to better regulate groups managing elderly care, with a view to better transparency over the use of public funds, it said.
(Reporting by Mimosa Spencer;Editing by Alexander Smith, Barbara Lewis, Christina Fincher, William Maclean and Nick Zieminski)